Cong Chen and Zeki Hayran receive 2024 ECE Outstanding Ph.D. Thesis Research Award

Cong Chen and Zeki Hayran are the winners of this year's ECE Outstanding Ph.D. Thesis Research Award. The annual award is given to graduating Ph.D. students from the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) based on the significance of their doctoral research. 

Chen’s research aims to drive the global energy transition toward a carbon-neutral future, which relies on the large-scale integration of renewables and electrification across transportation, civil infrastructure, and industrial manufacturing sectors. Her thesis addresses two challenges of energy transition: (i) the aggregation of small but vast distributed energy resources (e.g., rooftop solar and electric vehicles) to balance global energy demand and supply under the recent landmark ruling of the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency; (ii) the integration of battery resources for reliability, resilience, and economic efficiency of future power grids with high penetration of stochastic renewable energy.

“It’s my great honor to receive the ECE Outstanding Ph.D. Thesis Award, a profound encouragement for me to continue my exciting and challenging research journey. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my supportive and inspiring advisor Lang Tong, my coauthors, my labmates from Digital Energy and Power Systems Group, my family, and my friends,” said Chen.

Hayran’s research focuses on metamaterials—materials engineered to possess specific optical properties—that vary over time. Historically, metamaterials had properties that varied only in space. Hayran’s work has demonstrated that by incorporating time as an additional degree of freedom, not only do many interesting physical phenomena emerge, but we can also surpass conventional performance limits for many applications. This opens the door to advancing next-generation photonic and electromagnetic systems with low-energy consumption and superior performance and capabilities.

“I would like to thank my advisor Dr. Francesco Monticone for his invaluable mentoring and guidance throughout my Ph.D. journey. Being recognized with this award is a true honor. It symbolizes not only the culmination of years of dedication and hard work but also the support and guidance I have received from mentors, peers, and collaborators. This accolade marks a significant milestone in my academic career and fuels my commitment to continue pursuing innovative research, aiming to contribute further to our collective understanding and advancement in the field,” said Hayran.

The ECE Graduate Committee reviews award nominations and the director of graduate studies oversees the process. In addition to a cash prize, the winner(s) will be presented with an engraved plaque near the end of the semester.

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